Denise Blackburn-Gay, APR, Fellow PRSA
Ethics Officer, South Carolina PRSA

Most PR practitioners are familiar with Rotary International’s Four-Way Test. We hear it recited at weekly Rotary meetings. We nod our heads in agreement and support, but do we model, respect, live, and lead by its ideas?

The four, simple principles created by Rotarian, Herbert Taylor, in 1932 and adopted by Rotary in 1943, has become one of the world’s most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics. Translated into more than one hundred languages, it is still as valid today as it was 87 years ago. This 24-word test should be at the heart of all communication. “Of the things we think, say and do:

“Is it the truth?”  Often what we consider to be the truth is tainted by personal bias, popular opinion, or gossip. Think carefully, “is it really the truth?”

“Is it fair to all concerned?” This is a difficult leadership question, yet one that we must answer. To effectively lead and succeed, we must be fair to everyone.

“Will it build goodwill and better friendships?” Effective leadership is about building goodwill and better relationships. Establishing long-lasting relationships with our employees, other organizations–including our competitors–and government and civic entities are crucial.

“Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” Leadership is about serving others, helping others succeed, and making our community, our country, and our world a better place. Leadership is not focused solely on today but looks to tomorrow’s leaders to carry on the principles and values that we have established.

Truth, fairness, goodwill, and better relationships are the bedrock of successful, principled leadership and are fundamental to all communication.

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